½cupmilk or cream, plus more if neededIf making the garlic purée, you can use the leftover cream
1teaspoonsea salt, plus more to taste
¼teaspoonfreshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
Garlic Purée (Optional):
Seperate the cloves from the garlic head by cutting off the top (the papery end), and then bang down on the garlic with the side of a heavy chef's knife to separate the cloves.Peel the garlic. (Use the side of a knife to smash each garlic clove, and the peel should slip off easily.)
Add the garlic and butter to a small saucepan, and cook over low heat for about 15 minutes. The garlic should be tender but not browned.Tip: You want to use very low heat for this step. If your stovetop has a small, less powerful burner, use that. If not, keep a close eye on the garlic to make sure it doesn't begin to brown.
Add the cream and bring to a simmer over low heat. Simmer for 10 minutes, or until the garlic is very tender.
Scoop garlic out of the cream and add to a food processor. Purée until smooth. Reserve cream.The garlic purée can be made up to a day ahead of time.
French Mashed Potatoes:
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil.Scrub, peel, and quarter the potatoes. Add the potatoes to the boiling water, and cook 10-15 minutes until tender (but not falling apart).Drain the potatoes. Add the potatoes back to the pot and immediately run through a potato masher or ricer.
For Russet potatoes: Put the pot back on the stovetop, turn the heat to medium, and use a wooden spatula or spoon to beat the potatoes constantly for about 2 minutes. When the potatoes begin to form a film on the bottom of the pan, turn off the heat.If your potatoes are old they might already be dry, and a film will appear immediately on the bottom of the pan. If so, turn off the heat and move on to the next step.This step will remove extra moisture from the potatoes. If using Yukon gold potatoes you can skip this step since they absorb less moisture.
Add the milk or cream to a small saucepan and bring to a simmer.If you made the garlic purée, you can use the leftover cream for this step. You might need to add a little extra milk or cream until you have ½ cup total.Cut the butter into small cubes. Add butter cubes, salt, and pepper to the potatoes.
Begin beating the hot milk or cream into the potatoes. Continue beating until the potatoes are smooth and creamy.If your potatoes were very dry, you might need to add extra milk. (Warm the milk before adding.)Taste and add more salt if desired.To keep warm (for up to an hour), place in a pan over lightly simmering water, and cover loosely. The mashed potatoes can be made up to a day ahead of time, and then reheated in the same manner (in a loosely covered pan over simmering water).
Just before serving, beat the garlic (if using) into the hot mashed potatoes. Serve with gravy or extra butter if desired.
Cook time assumes you're multitasking and are preparing the potatoes while the garlic cooks on low heat. If you prepare the garlic fully and then the potatoes, cook time will be longer.